Original article can be see on mariashriver.com here.
By: Lora Poepping.
One of my favorite neighbors recently asked my husband, who is in the field of finance, to speak with her son, who had recent graduated from a local university.
Her son was seeking his first job and was specifically focused on working in the topsy-turvy world of hedge funds.
My husband gladly met with my neighbor’s son (let’s call him Chris) and spent over an hour with him, even treating Chris to a latte at the local Starbucks.
That evening, my husband mentioned that Chris barely looked him in the eye when he shook his hand, seemed indifferent to the discussion and didn’t take a single note during the conversation.
Weeks passed and no note of thanks was sent, despite the fact that my husband took time out of his busy schedule to meet with Chris.
You might be thinking: that’s a recent college graduate. While he should have had better sense than to show such indifference, the lack of a thank you note is simply an indication of his age.
You’re right…and you’re wrong.
As a job search coach, I cannot tell you the number of times I have personally witnessed this same behavior in women and men of all ages and all levels of work experience.
The stories my clients share often astound me (maybe I had better learn to stop being surprised) — meeting with contacts without taking just 5 minutes to look up the new connection on LinkedIn; arriving late, yet never apologizing for their tardiness; and the latest, showing up for a meeting in clothes they had worn to a workout. Oy!
In the interest of both the job seeker and the kind people who provide their expertise to these job seekers, please allow me to offer this advice:
- If you have the good fortune of meeting with a new connection (likely made for you but the generous act of a friend), do your homework. Make a quick visit to LinkedIn. What position does this person currently have and how long have they been in that role? What industry are they in? What past experiences and past employers do you want to discuss? Know this person’s background inside and out. Ask your friend for their insights and perspective on this new connection. Know what they look like: hopefully they have a photo on LinkedIn.
- Listen intently and look interested. Stop thinking about how to sell yourself. Instead, listen for the language this person uses. This vocabulary will help you as you speak with others in that type of role or in that industry.
- Confirm the day prior via email and always give your cell number, location and time of the meeting and describe yourself. You’d be surprised how many of my clients have shown up on the wrong day or the wrong location and then realized that the person they were meeting had no idea what they looked like.
- Show up on time. No, show up early. If your meeting is set for 10 am, set your phone’s calendar (or if you’re living in the dark ages of written calendars, like me) for 9:45. Plan for traffic. Stake out a spot at that busy coffee shop and save two chairs in the quiet corner.
- Be grateful. That doesn’t mean fawning all over someone. You don’t want to scare them, for goodness sakes. But, you do want to demonstrate that you know that they are sacrificing time out of their busy day for you.
- After the niceties of the initial meeting moments, explain your intent. Here’s a sample script: “Lisa has told me so much about you and I did a little homework myself. You have spent the last 15 years in the healthcare industry and the intent of my wanting to meet with you is to learn more about your path and what you see as future opportunities in healthcare. I intend to do all of the listening and I hope it’s OK if I take a few notes to tickle my memory later on.” When people meet with you, they want to know how to best assist you and making it clear up front really starts the conversation off on the right foot.
- Make certain you have a short (and I mean it), crisp message about yourself so that if this meeting ends with “…and what are you looking for?”, you are ready. How about something like this: “First of all, thank you so much for sharing your own story and for giving me some valuable insights on the healthcare industry. I am exploring how my background as a former (fill in the blank) might map to healthcare. I’m still learning the vocabulary but I see that my experience may be a fit when I finally get to applying for positions. Do you know of anyone else who might be a good connection for me?”
- Never ask for a job. I mean it. Never. You just end up putting people on the spot and if they don’t know of an opportunity that matches your background, the wall goes up (I call it the job seeker force field) and they don’t hear another word you say.
- Follow up. Now. Send a snail mail thank you, an email, a carrier pigeon, a call. Just please show appreciation. People remember both the lack of a thank you note as well as the receipt of one. Just a short aside, I conducted a survey of 40 recruiters I know and asked them how important a written thank you note is in this age of email. Overwhelmingly they said that while a written note isn’t a must, 100% of those polled said that they do look unfavorably on the lack of some form of acknowledgement.
- Finally, and just as importantly, make it easy for someone to help you. What I mean by that is follow up with a thank you and include a short paragraph that your connection can pass along to their network. How about something like this: “Lisa, you kindly offered to introduce me to your former colleague at Kinzer Medicine. To make that introduction easier for you, here is a short paragraph about me. ‘Lisa Smith is a former skilled nurse who is exploring opportunities in healthcare administration arena. Lisa would appreciate hearing how those who currently work on the administrative side of the industry got their start and gain a better understanding of the career marketplace.’”
While some of these may seem like common sense, you would be surprised (or maybe not) at how many job seekers forget the importance of showing appreciation and consideration.
Sometimes even the smallest things make all the difference. Why chance missing out on what could be the job of your dreams because you didn’t pay attention to the details?